Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Alexander Stubb, President of Finland

  • 10 Apr. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 10 Apr. 2024 16:33

(As delivered)

Good afternoon. President Stubb, dear Alex, it's great to see you here. Welcome to the NATO headquarters and congratulations on your election as President of Finland. And let me also congratulate you on the first anniversary of Finland as a full NATO Ally. 

Your membership makes NATO stronger and Finland safer. Finland takes security and defence seriously. You have long made defence spending a priority and we are grateful for the fact that when Finland joined NATO, yet another NATO Ally is spending and more than 2% on defence. You have highly trained personnel and your advanced military capabilities bolster our deterrence and defence. 

Finland's seamless integration into the NATO family and the NATO structures reflects decades of very close cooperation between Finland as a previous partner, before you became a full member. We will continue to work together to further strengthen our Alliance. We live in a more dangerous world, but NATO has become stronger, so we continue to protect and defend all Allies. 

Today in our meeting we discussed Ukraine and the urgent need for more support, and reliable and predictable support for Ukraine, because the situation on the battlefield is difficult. Delays in funding are having direct consequences on the ground every day. Delays in delivery of air defences will allow Russian missiles to hit more targets, and delays in delivery of ammunition will allow Russia to press along the frontline. 

Ukraine simply cannot wait. It needs air defences, ammunition and aid. Now. 

Against all odds, the Ukrainians have already achieved so much. They can prevail, but they need our support. 

NATO is actively working to ensure reliable and predictable security assistance to Ukraine now and for the long haul, so that Ukraine relies less on the voluntary contributions and more on NATO commitments. Less on short term offers on more on multiyear pledges. Moscow needs to understand that they cannot wait those out and, therefore, a package for Ukraine with predictable robust support is what we are working on now in NATO. 

And I thank you, President, for Finland's strong support to step up the NATO support to Ukraine. 

Let me also thank Finland and you for the fact that since the full fledge invasion of Ukraine, back in 2022, Finland has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine. You have provided around 2 billion euros in military aid since 2022, including 30 million euros to the Czech-led artillery initiative. I also welcome that just last week Finland signed a new 10-year security agreement with Kyiv. So we are grateful for your contributions to NATO's collective defence, to our shared security, and, not least, that Finland is a lead nation in providing support to Ukraine. 

So once again, dear Alex, welcome, it's great to see you here.


Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson: MTV, Janne Puumalainen.

Janne Puumalainen (MTV): Thank you especially for that process. Finland has not imposed any restrictions on its military aid to Ukraine. But some NATO countries still do not allow their weapons to be used to strike Russian territory. Does that undermine Ukraine's ability to win the war? And secondly, if I may, EU’s Josep Borrell yesterday said that Europe must prepare for a potential war, as a full scale conflict on the continent is no longer a fantasy. How important is Finland's role while Europe prepares against that Russia threat? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
I can start and just say that first, we can never take peace for granted. And we live in a more dangerous world. We have a full-fledged war in Europe. We have a new war in the Middle East and we have more great power rivalry. At the same time, we have seen that NATO has adapted. So we live in a more dangerous world but NATO has become stronger to preserve peace, to prevent war, as NATO has successfully done for 75 years.
And we don't see any imminent threat, a military threat against any NATO Ally because NATO's deterrence works. We are there together and an attack against one will be an attack on all and that's the best way to prevent any armed attack on any NATO Ally. Then on the support: Well, it is a decision by each and every Ally exactly what kind of support they provide to Ukraine. But I welcome that Allies have provided long Range missiles. Allies are also now providing F 16s. And we need to remember what this is: This is a war of aggression where Russia has invaded another country – blatantly violating international law. And Ukraine has the right according to international law for self-defence. That's actually a right, enshrined in the UN Charter. And we have the right to help Ukraine uphold the right of self-defence without making NATO Allies party to the conflict. And Ukraine has one part of self-defence is also that Ukraine has the right to strike legitimate military targets outside Ukraine to defend themselves. So this is a war of attrition, Ukraine has a right to self-defence and I welcome that Allies are providing military support to enable their self-defence.

Finnish President Alexander Stubb:
I guess there's a short answer and a long answer to both of your questions. The short answer about war is to say that a pessimist always prepares for the worst but an optimist makes sure that it doesn't happen. And I think that is exactly what we should do. First in terms of national defence, secondly, in terms of NATO's defence, and thirdly, in terms of the capacity of the European Union. As far as Finnish support, long answer, for Ukraine is concerned, it is steadfast. It will continue for as long as it takes. And from my visit to Kyiv last week on Wednesday, I think the message was very clear to all of our Allies, including the United States, is that Ukraine needs ammunition. It needs weapons, and it needs vehicles and it needs them now. So there's a short term need of help and that's why I have also called upon the US Congress to release the $60 billion because that is part of the package.
Will that solve all? No. We need to continue to do our part in Europe as well and that's why I welcome the Czech initiative of pooling ammunition. I had conversations yesterday with the Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo who has committed 200 million euros to that particular initiative. And I actually also had lunch yesterday with your Josep Borrell and discussed this particular event. I think what he tries to do is to raise the prospect of a possibility of a war but we must make sure that that will not happen on our soil. And the best way to do it is by supporting Ukraine now.

Max Delaney, AFP
So thank you very much, Secretary General, you said that Ukraine simply cannot wait any longer for air defenses. So my question is, why is Ukraine still waiting? Are the Allies unwilling or unable to provide it and when will Ukraine get the Patriots that it's been pleading for so desperately?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Well, NATO allies have provided unprecedented level of support to Ukraine, including air defenses, including Patriot batteries, and also other advanced systems, including the NASAMS, the IRIS-T , SAMP-T and other advance defense systems. As important as delivering new systems is to ensure that the systems which are already there are working as they should meaning they need spare parts, they need ammunition, they need maintenance. But at the foreign ministerial meeting last week, my message was the same as we also heard from many allies and of course, from Ukraine that there is a need to step up even more and provide not only ammunition and spare parts to the existing batteries and systems but also to deliver more systems. I know that some Allies are now really looking into what more they can do, how they can dig even deeper into their inventories to provide more air defense for Ukraine because it is urgent.

Finnish President Alexander Stubb:
If I may also just for the record, when I was in Kyiv, we released our 23rd aid package, which brought, as the Secretary General said, our military aid to roughly 2 billion that combined with humanitarian development another 900 million puts our bill up to 2.9 at this stage. Usually we, how should I put it, say less and do more but this time around we also released two forms of equipment or ammunition military material that we gave Ukraine. One was actually air defense, and the other one was heavy ammunition. Finland is actually the sixth GDP per capita measured in terms of supporting Ukraine and we will continue to do that. I think all of us realize not only the frontline states, but all of us in Europe realize that it is in our interest to continue to do so.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson:
Thank you, Hennele, YLE.

Hannele Muilu, YLE:
Thank you. Finish newspaper Iltalehti told yesterday that there will be a Land Component Command in Mikkeli, under Norfolk JFC. What are the gains for NATO and what are the gains for Finland to have this unit?

Finnish President Alexander Stubb:
Well, I'd kind of like to separate it into two things. The first one is to say that there is a political ambition to be under one command or another, and then that political ambition is somehow followed with a decision. No decisions have been taken yet. So we're waiting for SACEUR to determine what is in the military and defence interests of the Alliance of where Finland and potentially the other Nordic countries would belong, whether it's Norfolk or Brunssum. And then after that, there should be a military decision determining what is the best place for air defence, what is the best place for sea defence and what is the best place for land defence, so I would like not to put the carriage in front of the horse here yet. We're working with our Allies for the best solution, which has got very little to do with regional policy, very little to do with politics, but it is purely a military decision. But I don't think you have to have a doctorate in military strategy to understand that if the land border of the Alliance has doubled with Russia, it might be quite useful to perhaps have a Land Component close to that border as well.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
Let me just add that we welcome the fact that Finland has offered to host Land Component Command for a multi-corps force. But as Alex just said, as the President just said, no decision has been made yet. We are now waiting for the advice from our Supreme Allied Commander SACEUR and based on that will then take a decision within some weeks or a couple of months. On the different ways we are now going to adapt our command structure this is partly about the fact that we have Finland and Sweden as new members but also the fact that we have actually initiated a bigger process of adapting NATO's command structure and part of that will be also then to have different component commands in different parts of Europe, including in the Nordic area.

Farah Dakhlallah, NATO Spokesperson:
Thank you and a final question to Reuters. Andrew Gray.

Andrew Gray, Reuters:
Thank you there have been reports in recent days that Ukrainian military intelligence carried out an attack on a Russian warship docked off Kaliningrad. Does either of you have any information that would shed light on that report and could confirm whether it's true. And following up, would you consider it to be legitimate for Ukraine to carry out attacks on Russian warships in the Baltic, particularly given that the Baltic is now often described as a NATO lake?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:
So first of all, I will not go into specifics when it comes to intelligence. And second, I will not give specific advice to what kind of targets that Ukraine should or should not attack, except for saying that it is part of the right for self-defense also to hit legitimate military targets outside your own country. Because Russia is using so many different types of capabilities to attack Ukraine and Ukraine has the right for self-defense, and that includes also legitimate military targets outside Ukraine.